5 SNEAKY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EXERCISING AND BUILDING MUSCLE

strong young people outside

You’re exercising three, four, even five times a week, but you aren’t seeing the results you desire or expect. If you’re exercising so frequently, why isn’t your body transforming the way it should?

It could be because you’re working out in ways that just don’t build muscle. Going for a run is one thing; building your body is another. Consider the differences between exercising and muscle-building so that you squeeze every last benefit out of your next workout.

1. Building Muscle Requires Targeted Exercise

Exercise can be defined as virtually any activity that gets your heart pumping: going for a jog, climbing stairs, playing sports, riding a bike or even walking along the beach. But in order to actually build muscle, you must partake in specific, high-rep exercises that generally involve weightlifting. High-rep exercises, with progressively heavier weights, promote muscle gain by strengthening both type I and type II muscle fibers, creating bulkier, stronger muscles. Chest presses, barbell rows, squats and shoulder presses are just a few exercises you’ll want to start incorporating into your workouts if your focus is on getting stronger.

2. Exercising Tones; Bodybuilding Bulks

fit women lifts barbell

Most exercises you take part in, from hiking, to yoga, to cardio, will tone your muscles and help you lose fat, but often won’t result in more defined muscles. Bodybuilding, on the other hand, is designed to grow and define your muscles specifically, while keeping your body fat at an all-time low. This requires diet planning and pairing, with additional cardio exercises tossed in. Instead of constantly watching the scale and fretting over your BMI, shift your mindset and pay attention to the changes happening to your body. During this process, the number on the scale might increase, but your body will be tighter, stronger and more fit.

3. Bodybuilding Involves Careful Meal Plans

Exercise is obviously important, but if you don’t support your exercise with proper nutritional intake and well-planned meals, you might actually put your body in a destructive state. The whole idea around starvation is a myth after all. Not only do bodybuilders develop very strict meal plans supplemented with proteins to maximize their potential growth and shape their muscles, they’re also very careful about their meal portions and the time of day they intake certain fats and calories. If you’re looking to build muscle, eat four to six meals per day to kickstart your metabolism and burn more calories. Also make sure to eat lots of protein and pay attention to your pre- and post-workout nutrition to maximize gains.

4. Exercising Increases Muscular Strength

woman running outside sunny

Exercising in general can contribute to your health in many different ways, from increasing your speed and agility, to making you better at your sport of choice, to boosting your levels of happiness, to strengthening your muscles. This strengthening, as you know, isn’t always visibly noticeable because you aren’t necessary bulking your muscles. But contrary to popular belief, cardio exercises (especially when paired with bodybuilding) will build muscle over time, according to the review of 14 studies.

5. Exercise and Muscle-Building Work Best Together

Focusing solely on weight-training—while likely to result in bigger muscles—doesn’t automatically increase your performance, according to this study. Bigger muscles won’t necessarily make you a better swimmer or a more advanced runner, either. Don’t ditch other parts of your workout like cardio or agility— these will help make sure your body is balanced, fit and strong.

Our verdict? It’s clear that working out and building muscle are different but also complementary. While we can understand your interest in getting stronger, you should combine the best of both worlds. That way you can jog the beach and show off your six pack without a huff or a puff about it.

Photos: Zachary Staines, luckyraccoon / Shutterstock, lzf / Shutterstock

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